Two Douglas-area brothers have been sentenced this year for their roles in smuggling high-powered firearms into Mexico, but their sister remains the subject of an arrest warrant issued after she failed to appear for a pretrial conference.
Kathia Victoria Bocanegra, 24, is charged with six federal felonies, including making false statements during the purchase of a firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm, smuggling firearms from the United States, and conspiracy. She was scheduled to appear at the U.S. District Court in Tucson for an Oct. 9, 2019 hearing but failed to show up.
A federal magistrate issued an arrest warrant, and anyone with information about Bocanegra’s whereabouts can report it to the U.S. Marshals Service in Tucson at 520-879-6900.
In the meantime, her brother Victor Hugo Bocanegra was ordered last month by a U.S. District Court judge to serve two years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons after he pleaded guilty to smuggling firearms from the United States. Victor Hugo, 20, must serve three years of federal probation after his release from custody.
Kathia’s other brother, Victor Anthony Bocanegra, 21, took a plea deal earlier this year that netted him a three year federal prison sentence in March followed by two years of supervised release. His guilty plea was also to smuggling firearms from the United States.
Court documents describe some of the activities the Bocanegra siblings, who are all United States citizens, were accused of engaging in at the behest of their father, a Mexican national living in Agua Prieta who is the subject of an arrest warrant in the United States.
For instance, the grand jury indictment unsealed in February 2019 alleged Victor Hugo purchased a .50 caliber rifle and two M249 light machine guns in late 2018 from a licensed Phoenix area gun store. He was suspected of falsifying ATF’s Federal Firearms Transaction Record (Form 4473) and arranging to export the rifles to Mexico.
The siblings went back to the gun store in hopes of obtaining five more M249s, but were referred to a different seller who was actually an undercover officer. That’s when Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in Douglas and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began working together with support from the Sierra Vista Police Department.
Over several weeks, the Bocanegras made deposits totaling $32,000 toward the nearly $47,000 cost of the M249s, even though none of the siblings had reportable income. All three were arrested Jan. 9, 2019 when they brought an additional $6,000 payment to a meeting with the undercover officer in Sierra Vista at which the weapons and money were to change hands.
Defense attorneys then sought to have Bocanegras released prior to trial. The brothers were denied bail, but Kathia Bocanegra was granted release after a cousin, Melissa K. Conway, signed an unsecured $3,000 bond over the objection of Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Rossi, who expressed “grave concern” that Kathia would flee to her parents in Mexico.
The bond becomes collectable from Conway upon a court order, but there is no record that Rossi has taken any action to activate the bond.
Once taken into custody, Kathia Bocanegra faces an additional criminal charge for the failure to appear. That charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.
According to HSI, Mexican cartels often use straw buyers like the Bocanegras to buy guns on behalf of someone who is prohibited by law from making the purchase. Straw purchasers are also used when the intended buyer wants to avoid a pre-purchase background check or doesn’t want to be listed on the ATF documents.
Antonia Beltran Bocanegra, who was described in court as the siblings’ mother, is also a fugitive from justice. Records from the Cochise County Superior Court show a warrant was issued for the arrest of Antonia Bocanegra, 48, in 2013 after she was convicted in absentia on money laundering and fraudulent schemes charges.
Any information about her whereabouts can be reported to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office at 520-432-9502.